How Obama destroyed all those coal jobs

He didn’t.  Handy chart via David Roberts (coal and parenting in one day– what a guy):

coal mining employment

And, since Economists are good at analyzing stuff like this, how much can we blame Obama’s regulations?

Exactly what has waged war on coal, and how much

So what’s responsible for this wreckage? Houser et al. set out to put some numbers on it.

They did so by comparing coal’s actual performance with 2006 Energy Information Administration projections, corrected for the decline in overall demand (which the EIA, like everyone else, completely failed to anticipate). Then they did the same for natural gas and renewables. Finally, they “explored how each fuel’s share of total interconnect-level generation varied in 2016 from what the EIA had projected.”

Comparing projections with actual performance, they were able to quantify how much of coal’s projected market share was eaten up by competitors (and other forces). Here are the culprits, the leading brigades in the “war on coal,” listed by size:

  1. Natural gas: 49 percent
  2. Lower-than-expected demand: 26 percent
  3. Renewable energy: 18 percent
  4. Obama regulations: 3 to 5 percent

The impact of regulations was calculated somewhat differently, based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s projected costs, which historically have tended to be much lower than industry’s projections but much higher than actual after-the-fact costs. And the researchers modeled what would happen if Obama’s most significant regulations simply vanished. In reality, they won’t vanish; they will probably just be weakened after months or years of rulemaking and legal challenge.

So 5 percent should be considered an unrealistically high upper bound for the impact of Obama’s regs. (There’s much discussion of methodological challenges in the report.)

What’s clear is that the “war on coal” was led by cheap, fracked natural gas. Renewables and efficiency played vital supporting roles. Obama’s regulations were, in comparison, a peashooter. [emphasis mine]

But don’t tell the miners or our president.

Correlation does not equal causation– Medicaid version

Given how much they want to slash Medicaid, Republicans are going all out trashing the program and, dare I say, lying about what it actually achieves.  Aarron Carroll and Austin Frakt explain the Medicaid reality and how the existing studies are being heinously mis-used by Republican advocates for cutting Medicaid.  Christopher Frederico’s tweet nails it:

Anyway, onto the piece:

It’s relatively easy to conduct and publish research that shows that Medicaid enrollees have worse health care outcomes than those with private coverage or even with no coverage. One such study that received considerable attention was conducted at the University of Virginia Health System.

For patients with different kinds of insurance — Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance and none — researchers examined the outcomes from almost 900,000 major operations, like coronary artery bypass grafts or organ removal. They found that Medicaid patients were more likely than any other type of patient to die in the hospital. They were also more likely to have certain kinds of complications and infections. Medicaid patients stayed in the hospital longer and cost more than any other type of patient. Private insurance outperformed Medicaid by almost every measure.

Other studies have also found that Medicaid patients have worse health outcomes than those with private coverage or even those with no insurance. If we take them to mean that Medicaid causes worse health, we would be justified in canceling the program. Why spend more to get less?

But that is not a proper interpretation of such studies. There are many other, more plausible explanations for the findings. Medicaid enrollees are of lower socioeconomic status — even lower than the uninsured as a group — and so may have fewer community and family resources that promote good health. They also tend to be sicker than other patients. In fact, some health care providers help the sickest and the neediest to enroll in Medicaid when they have no other option for coverage. Because people can sign up for Medicaid retroactively, becoming ill often leads to Medicaid enrollment, not the opposite…

Here’s another telling way to test the idea that Medicaid is harmful. Some of the studies that associate Medicaid with worse health, as compared with private insurance, also find the same association with Medicare. No one argues that Medicare is making people sick.

A very recent New England Journal of Medicine review by Ben Sommers, Atul Gawande and Kate Baicker found that Medicaid increases patients’ access to care and leads to earlier detection of disease, better medication adherence and improved management of chronic conditions. It also provides people with peace of mind — knowing that they will be able to afford care when they get sick. [emphasis mine]

That’s a hugely important point that Ezra Klein often raises.  There is tremendous psychological value in being free of the fear that you are one medical problem away from personal and financial disaster.  In fact, that’s pretty much the whole point of insurance.

Research is clear on how people react when asked to pay more for their health care, as the Senate would ask many of those now on Medicaid to do. As the Congressional Budget Office reported, many poor people would choose not to be covered, because even if they could afford the premiums with help from tax credits, deductibles and co-payments would still be prohibitively expensive. No studies prove that removing millions from Medicaid in this way would “produce better results for recipients,” at least as far as their health is concerned.

I’m sure there are ways we could improve Medicaid, but it is extraordinarily disingenuous to pretend the program is not a huge benefit to its recipients in order to justify dramatically reducing the quality of life for millions of current recipients.

The best parenting advice

I love David Roberts’ post on parenting advice.  Especially this:

If the David Brookses of the world were honest, their parenting advice would begin: Have a healthy kid, live in an affluent area (with low crime and good schools), be from a socially privileged demographic, and make a decent amount of money. From there on, it’s pretty much coasting.

Check, check, and check.  Look at me– awesome parent ;-).  And my parents, too.  Clearly, very wise of them to be born white, healthy, and middle class.  And some more:

Like any parent, I would love to believe that my awesome kids are a result of my awesome parenting. Sadly, expert opinion indicates it ain’t so. Genes have an enormous influence. Peers and culture have an enormous influence. But parenting styles inside the home, apart from extreme cases like abuse or neglect, have very little long-term influence on a person’s personality or success in life, at least that social scientists have been able to detect. (Vox’s own Matt Yglesias wrote about some of this research recently.)

This isn’t to say parents and parenting aren’t important. Parents supply the genes, except in cases of adoption (or remarriage). They control, at least to some extent, the peers and environments to which children are exposed. And of course they crucially affect a child’s quality of life at home, which, as I will argue shortly, is not some minor detail.

But it’s safe to say that your kids’ long-term fate will not be meaningfully affected by the speed and timing of potty training, the brand of educational videos you purchase, or the precise tone of voice in which you discipline. A large proportion of the Parenting Industrial Complex isn’t about kids — it’s about generating content for nervous parents who feel like they should be doing something.

Another way of putting this same point is that an enormous amount of a child’s fate is determined by luck, by accidents of birth, socioeconomics, and geography. My kids are about the luckiest little bastards on the planet. They were born to stable, reasonably well-adjusted parents who have good jobs, a home in a safe neighborhood, and a large reservoir of social capital upon which to draw. (Their parents were lucky, too, in other words.) They were born healthy and haven’t been injured or suffered serious illness. They have parents who haven’t divorced, or been laid off, or faced a serious health crisis. They attend good schools alongside the children of other educated, engaged parents. They are white males, with all the advantages, seen and unseen, that come along with that. [emphasis mine]

If any one of those things had been different, parenting would be a greater challenge, no matter my parenting style. I don’t have the standing to offer any wisdom to the single mother working two jobs. I know very little about the struggles of raising children with serious mental or physical disabilities. I’ll never have to have the kinds of conversations about hatred and vulnerability that every parent of minority or LGBTQ children eventually must.

Also, seems like a good time to plugSelfish Reasons to Have More Kids (which I haven’t done in a while).

And, as long as I’m on parenting.  Maybe, you need to parent more like a Cameroonian farmer.  From NPR:

Now for the first time, there’s a study reporting on what happens when psychologists give the marshmallow test to kids outside Western culture, specifically 4-year-old children from the ethnic group Nso in Cameroon.

“The Nso are a community who live off subsistence farming, mainly corn and beans,” says Bettina Lamm, a psychologist at the Universitaet Osnabrueck, who led the study. “Most of the children live in mud brick houses without water and electricity. They have to work a lot to take care of younger siblings and help their parents on the farm.”

Guess what? These kids rocked the marshmallow test.

“The difference was huge,” Lamm says. “The Cameroonian kids really behave very differently, and they were able to wait much better.”

Lamm and her colleagues ran the experiment on nearly 200 Cameroonian and German kids. The Cameroonian kids were offered a puff-puff — a little doughnut popular there.

Compared to German children in the experiment, the Cameroonian kids waited, on average, twice as long for the second treat. And way more Cameroonian kids — nearly 70 percent — waited the full 10 minutes to snag the second marshmallow. Only about 30 percent of the German kids could hold out, Lamm and her team reported in the journal Child Development in early June…

Lamm says they don’t know exactly why the Cameroonian kids were so good at the marshmallow test. Kid behaviors are complicated and sophisticated. But one reason may be the Nso parenting style, which is completely different than Western parenting.

“Nso children are required very early to control their emotions, especially negative emotions,” Lamm says. “Moms tell their children that they don’t expect them to cry and that they really want them to learn to control their emotions.”

This parenting style starts very early — when children are newborns.

“The moms breast-feed their babies before they start to cry so they don’t need to express any negative emotion,” Lamm says. “This emotion is already regulated before it’s expressed.”

Western moms spend a lot of time looking at their babies for signals to figure out what their babies need. The Nso moms don’t do this.

“They believe they — the moms — know what is good for a baby, and they do what is good for a baby,” Lamm says. “They don’t need to look for signals from the baby.”

As the children get older, this parenting style continues.

“Kids are really expected to learn to control their needs and not ask for their desires or wishes,” she says.

Given the amount of whining and negative emotion that comes from my kids, I just may be the opposite of a Cameroonian farmer.  But, at least I gave them good genes and good socio-demographics.

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